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Napoleonic Europe and the Post-Napoleonic Era for AP European History (page 3)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Revolution and Repression

The conservative intentions revealed in the aristocratic designs of the Vienna settlement flew in the face of both the liberal hopes and ambitions of middle- and working-class people (embodied by the Enlightenment and French Revolution) and the spirit of nationalism (which had grown in response to Napoleonic domination). The resulting tensions between the aristocratic ruling classes and their ambitious rivals further down the social ladder resulted in nearly two decades of revolution and repression. Between 1820 and 1848, waves of popular uprisings rose across Europe attempting to force reform from an aristocratic ruling class, which responded by censoring the press, imprisoning its enemies, and crushing uprisings.

The Revolutions of 1820–1829

During this period, the Concert of Europe sanctioned the use of military force to subdue several liberal and nationalist uprisings:

  • In 1820, the Concert empowered France to intervene in Spain; in 1823, 100,000 French troops crushed Spanish opposition to the monarchy.
  • In 1821, the Concert authorized Austria to put down uprisings in the Italian kingdoms of Sicily and Piedmont.
  • In December of 1825, the new Russian Tsar, Nicholas I, with the blessings of the Concert, crushed a revolt led by reform-minded army officers.
  • In 1829, a decade-long revolt in Greece culminated in its independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Britain dissented from these actions, arguing that the purpose of the Concert of Europe was to guard against future French aggression, not to interfere with the domestic politics of individual European countries. In 1822, Britain formally left the alliance, but it continued to consult with the other major powers.

The rebellion for Greek independence from the Muslim Empire of the Ottoman Turks was exceptional. The Greek rebellion was supported by the majority of the Concert for whom the cultural connections to Christian Greece trumped concerns for the precedent that a successful rebellion might set. Only Russia, who feared the spread of liberal and national sentiments into its adjoining empire, refused to support the Greek rebellion.

The Revolutions of 1830–1832

This period was characterized by limited success on the part of liberals and nationalists in France, Britain, and Belgium in forcing some measure of reform from their aristocratic rulers, and by the failure of such movements in Poland and Italy:

  • In 1830, the French monarch Charles X issued the July Ordinances, which dissolved part of the legislative branch of the government and revoked the voting privileges of the bourgeoisie. The result was a rebellion by the bourgeoisie, students, and workers that forced Charles X to abdicate. The revolutionaries initially hoped to establish a republic, but the wealthy bourgeoisie asserted their control to save the monarchy and install the more compliant Louis Philippe on the throne.
  • In August 1830, Belgian patriots rose up against their Dutch rulers, won their independence, and established a liberal government.
  • In 1831, a coalition of Polish army officers, students, and intellectuals rose up against their Russian rulers and fought for independence, but their rebellion was crushed by Russian troops.
  • In 1831–1832, Austrian troops crushed an Italian revolutionary movement that had been inspired by the Polish uprising.
  • In 1832, pressure from riots, strikes, and demonstrations in Britain broke a stalemate between liberals in the House of Commons and conservatives in the House of Lords, resulting in the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832, which extended the vote to most of the adult male middle class.

The Revolutions of 1848

Poor harvests, famine, and financial crises during the 1840s intensified demands for reform and increased pressure on traditional governments to effect change. Those governments resisted and a wave of revolution broke across Europe that initially forced conservative governments to make concessions:

  • In France, in February 1848, the decision by King Louis Philippe to ban reformers from holding public meetings (euphemistically known as "banquets") led to massive street demonstrations in Paris; violence escalated into revolution, forcing Louis Philippe to abdicate and a new French republic (known as the Second Republic) to be established.
  • In Vienna, uprisings forced Prince Metternich to resign and the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand I to abolish many repressive laws. He also convened a constitutional assembly which voted to abolish serfdom. The Hapsburg monarchy was also faced with nationalist uprisings in the Czech and Hungarian areas of the Empire.
  • In Berlin, violence broke out between the army and demonstrators; Frederick William IV ordered the troops out of the city and agreed to form a parliament and to incorporate liberal leaders into his government.
  • In almost all of the capital cities of the German states, uprisings occurred, forcing rulers to pass liberal reforms. Flushed with success, liberal leaders formed the Frankfurt Assembly, whose members were popularly elected and charged with overseeing the formation of a new German nation.
  • Across the Italian peninsula, liberal reformers and nationalists forced Pope Pius IX to flee Rome and forced concessions from their Austrian rulers in Naples, Tuscany, and Piedmont-Sardinia. In Milan and Venice, rebellions drove the Austrians out and proclaimed republics.

In the second half of 1848, conservative governments regrouped and met the revolutionary movements with a ruthless wave of repression:

  • In Paris, the month of June saw an uprising by the working class and radicals who demanded relief from poverty and redistribution of wealth. Too radical to draw support from either the middle class or the peasantry, the rebellion was put down by the army. An election in December swept the conservative Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon) to power. Three years later, he staged his own coup d'état, putting an end to the Second Republic.
  • In the Hapsburg Empire, June also marked a turning point, as Austrian military forces bombarded Prague and put an end to Czech nationalist hopes. In October, the military turned their cannon on the city of Vienna itself, overcoming revolutionary resistance and arresting (and, in some cases, executing) liberal leaders. The following year, Austrian forces, aided by Russian troops, ended the Hungarians' bid for independence.
  • Heartened by the news from Vienna, Frederick William IV refused the crown offered him by the Frankfurt Assembly and used military troops to disperse the Assembly. In November, troops moved back into Berlin, where they faced little resistance. The reaction spread throughout Germany, as newly constituted parliaments and assemblies fell to the princes and their troops.
  • In Italy, in 1849, Austrian troops reoccupied Milan and crushed revolutionaries in the South. In June of 1849, Louis-Napoleon came to the aid of the pope, sending 10,000 French soldiers to retake Rome and secure Pope Pius's return to power.

Rapid Review

Between 1805 and 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered or subdued all of continental Europe. Napoleon's model for the reshaping of Europe into his own personal empire was the Roman Empire. Accordingly, neoclassicism became the dominant architectural style in Europe. Napoleonic rule had the dual effect of spreading the egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution and kindling nationalist aspirations across the continent. Following Napoleon's final defeat in 1815, the traditional, aristocratic ruling houses of Europe reasserted their dominance. By 1848, the tension between the new liberal and nationalist aspirations of the people of Europe and the determined conservatism of the aristocratic masters led to a wave of violence. In the first half of 1848, liberal revolutionaries and nationalist rebels took physical control of major cities and established republics. During the second part of 1848, conservative forces regrouped and used the military to crush the rebellions and reestablish control.

The review questions for this study guide can be found at:

Napoleonic Europe and the Post-Napoleonic Era  Review Questions for AP European History

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